I’ll update the blog with any significant updates on my SBRT experience. Radiation therapy for bone metastases is associated with limited side effects. I couldn’t do much at all yesterday concerning activity, but the symptoms usually resolve within a few days, and today (Friday) I’m already feeling better. Other than seeing the hospital beds in our house, I’m sure that some of the people helping us pack questioned why I wasn’t lifting a hand with the move. After finishing my third cancer treatment in March 2018 (nine months of combination chemotherapy—carboplatin and paclitaxel), I decided to take my first treatment break after being diagnosed (see Figure 3). Making matters worse, I still don’t look like a terminal cancer patient. More Information. ), and we arrived at MSKCC around 9:40 ET. I’ll provide an update around that time unless anything significant develops in the interim. Or maybe after reading and reflecting on mortality during the past three years, it is comforting to see progress in breaking down the cultural silence around death and dying. The same article continued with guidance that “in the absence of overt signs of infection, a lateral neck mass is metastatic squamous cell carcinoma or lymphoma until proved otherwise.” The results made me nervous enough to reach for the phone and call our family physician for an appointment that day. On Wednesday, I finished my fifth and final session of radiation therapy to my troublesome spine tumors at L5 and T7. Taxol alone isn’t cutting it; a change in course is recommended. The drug belongs to a class of bone-strengthening agents called bisphosphonates. Lorie phoned MSKCC to inform them that we were going to be late for my appointment. It may be a simple x-ray or a noisy MRI. Holding his leash in my hand(s) would be a sure-fire disaster — dragging me behind him at warp speed. One perspective is, another beautiful life lost to cancer. All Posts, Featured, Lifestyle, Wellness. This is intended to be mostly an historical account. Sure, adverse events could still occur at any time without notice, but nothing is suggesting my imminent demise. The perfect opportunity to participate in my healthcare by joining in the discussion and raising the right questions. However, such lymph nodes are often swollen, tender, and mobile. However, I knew from my background with radiopharmaceuticals that a pain flare, or transitory aggravation of bone pain after treatment, can occur in 2% to 40% of patients. During the procedure, my torso was marked with permanent little tattoo dots and CT scans were taken to identify the area that will be treated in subsequent visits. I am. Throughout my journey, cancer has robbed my family and me of many “normal” aspects of life—loss of work, income, physical stamina, future plans, and much more. It was different from any prior MRI procedure and caused me to alert the medical staff to stop. I’m not sure that I’ll ever fully grasp how the Sept. 11 terror attacks forever changed me. MRI machines use strong magnetic fields and radio waves (radiofrequency energy) to produce images. It’s a common misperception that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is intended only for females. With a background in radiopharmaceuticals, I’ve been a strong proponent of radiation therapy for some time. © 2017-2019 Michael D. Becker. On a positive note, the compression fracture at my L5 vertebrae looks unchanged/stable from the prior scan. None of this unexpected given the lack of systemic therapy. This is diagnostic, as it helps the physician determine whether or not they are targeting the right nerves in “real time”. When I got out of bed the day after my first dose of paclitaxel last week, I noticed that the rib area pain was completely gone for the first time. then, What if I’m not doing what I should do to get better? Maybe you'll see something here to inspire you. One of our taglines is “move from panic to powerful.” So why is it that I can feel powerful in some situations and really shaky in others? The AD patient may fail to recognize close relatives, which can lead to irritability, outbursts of unpremeditated aggression, or resistance to caregiving. Towards bedtime, I was in severe discomfort again despite taking pain medications. The sights, smells, and sounds of that day are permanently etched into my memory. The content, the community, the safe space, this profound connection when listening from the heart; ALL of this complements my healing as a cancer survivor harmoniously. Closing the post on a positive note, like Lester Holt’s signature sign-off segments that help end his NBC evening broadcasts with a reason for optimism, we were fortunate to celebrate Rosie’s 21st birthday as a family this week. I hoped that the antibiotic would work and I’d be feeling somewhat better by then. In order to avoid surgery, he was “going to go the natural alternative route.” For us, the natural route involved him temporarily moving from Northern to Southern California, 382 miles away, while I stayed home to work and raise our then 2-year old son. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in New York City, Washington, DC and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania during the Sept. 11 terror attacks. An additional benefit is that some of the content may be a helpful resource for others dealing with head/neck cancer. In some situations, a CT scan can detect abnormalities better than an MRI, including acute bleeding and bone fractures. Aside from the aforementioned, recall that I’ve been suffering from back pain due to the progression of cancer to the spine. While safe, the addition of SBRT to nivolumab failed to improve objective response rate (ORR), progression-free survival (PFS), or overall survival (OS), X-ray at urgent care suggesting pneumonia, History of radiation therapy to lungs in late July/early August. It’s all too much!! Next time we needed to enlist the help of a third person to handle Humphrey or leave him at home. Lately, however, my focus has shifted to managing various debilitating side effects of cancer and its treatment. The following is based on my experience as a hospice volunteer, and caregiver to my mom at her end of life. I’ll never forget the day, one day after his diagnosis, he packed everything he could fit into his Honda hatchback and drove away. The pain was attributed to an inflammatory condition, possibly bursitis according to the discharge papers. It is one thing to hear from family and friends, but some messages from people I’ve never met in person were also truly lovely and brought a smile to my face. The company had developed and commercialized Quadramet®—an injectable radiopharmaceutical used to treat bone pain associated with cancer. Bone is the third most common site for the spread of cancer, with half or more of patients diagnosed with cancer experiencing bone pain. This included forgoing treatment that included 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and/or cetuximab (Erbitux®) based on my reservations. While my breathing conditions deteriorated, a wheelchair had been dropped off on Saturday. People live in Bucks County because they prefer the aesthetics and/or the economics of living in the country, despite the hassles of commuting back-and-forth to NYC. Both medications are sedatives that can treat anxiety disorders, but they have differences in how long they work. There is always something going on; something else to be done. I know I am a little late in greeting but it is still better late than never! But Lorie was running out of breath pushing the wheelchair through the rough gravel path, and it was clear my ill-planned trip needed to come to an end. My blog was created to share my personal journey with cancer (both the ups and downs) of dealing with this disease. It may sound morbid, but my first thought was “at least now I won’t die in my forties.” Making it to 50 somehow sounds better. I’ve debated if I should share this personal story on social medial or just continue my post-treatment recovery in silence with only my family, a few of my close relatives and friends to share some updates. Fortunately, cancer has not yet contacted my spinal cord. Lastly, I hope that by sharing this experience freely, I can help create greater awareness for HPV and its link to six cancers with the hope that preteen vaccination rates improve. Existing sites of cancer returned to their pre-treatment sizes, such as the tumor on my spleen and certain lung tumors. One that I never saw coming. This has been accompanied by mild swelling and numbness near the skin surface, which is coincidentally where radiation tattoos used to guide my prior spleen therapy can be seen. You can see him being a goof after a bath and grooming session in the video clip below. As always, I hope that taking the time to tell my story will help raise awareness about HPV-related cancers and the importance of vaccinating both young women and men to prevent certain cancers. Continue reading →, When someone in your life is diagnosed with cancer, it’s hard to know what to say or do. Our hearts sunk as the discussion turned to the suspicious new lesions found on my spine. In other ways, it seems so very long ago. I was exhausted, as I had little if any break in treatment since January 2016. Thanks for joining me. Stuck in a tube and unexpectedly feeling like you could be boiled from the inside is a bit disconcerting. Regretfully, I second-guessed my request for an MRI of my spine due to the modest pain improvement and canceled that appointment after consulting with my treatment team. Was I true to my heart’s calling? In view of the relatively rapid cancer progression and difficulty in getting my pain under control, I made the decision that it was time for hospice. Tue, 07/25/2017 - 12:49am — darcher. We think we have to prove ourselves. My only therapy has consisted of externally targeted radiation to several painful metastatic sites on my spine and a bisphosphonate infusion to help strengthen my bones. I hope my learnings can help others diagnosed! Or the pain, numbness, and swelling could be late effects from prior radiation to the spleen. With Pancreatic Cancer. Oropharyngeal (head/neck) squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in men, according to the August 24, 2018 edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In my family three others had cancer and everyone survived it. I wanted so badly to help. My journey from breast cancer diagnosis through double mastectomy. Continue reading →, by Keri Lehmann, Master Cancer Coach; Co-Founder of The Cancer Journey Institute. In the meantime, I continue pushing away on my fentanyl pump between getting a few hours of sleep in the hospital. Later that afternoon, members of the hospice team arrived to answer questions and ensure that I had all of my medications. My best guess was that it would be another thirty minutes before arriving at MSKCC—assuming no other delays. To help prevent or minimize the pain flare that is common following radiation treatment to the skeleton, the neurosurgeon prescribed a steroid (dexamethasone). There are people who will be dealing with cancer this holiday season. Similar to how the hip/buttock/leg pain I’m experiencing is referred from cancer invasion of the L5 vertebrae. Assuming all goes well, we have already made arrangements for hospice to come to our house. Here’s my full breast cancer journey all in one place. If you’re like me, the holiday season often brings with it a certain bittersweet nostalgia. As I had hoped, the past six months were precisely what I needed and left me feeling refreshed and reenergized. Aside from the fact that I find writing cathartic, one purpose for this blog is to keep family and friends updated following my diagnosis with Stage IV oropharyngeal cancer in December 2015. So, as we turn the calendar to March, I’m hoping that my recent bouts of severe pain due to cancer progression in my spine diminish and go out like a lamb as the month progresses. Blogging is a unique experience. Disclaimer: Michael Becker is not a doctor and does not have formal medical training. In this regard, metals such as used in electronic medical devices, piercings, and tattoos, have the potential to cause severe burns or other harm within an MR imaging environment. If so, where did it spread and how fast was it growing? Web and Graphic Design | Berkeley | Thumbtack Studios. Of course, I glowed, I had chemicals racing through my veins killing everything in its way. If the time from identification of metastatic bone disease to patient death is no higher than eight months, then my expiration date should be somewhere around May/June 2019. It started with hip/buttock/leg pain that ultimately was diagnosed as originating from cancer progression to my spine. You see it all over the media – both mass and social – trying so hard to earn our worth, we put each other down right and left. I was disappointed. Click to enlarge. Ongoing. At this point, my chest and abdomen started to feel increasingly warm. We were in the process of buying a home in rural, beautiful Bucks County, Pennsylvania in connection with my new job. As just one example, I’m not supposed to lift more than 5-pounds or risk further fracture. Since I’ve always received the two in combination, there’s no way to tell. In fact, localized radiation can infrequently trigger systemic antitumor effects, called the “abscopal effect.” Recent studies presented at ASCO 2018 have explored SBRT in combination with checkpoint inhibitors to potentially improve the abscopal effect with mixed results. A long day to say the least! But somehow approaching the big 5-0 tomorrow seems different; more momentous. Wrong. A pain scale measures a persons pain intensity based on self-report, with pain levels between 0 (pain-free) and 10 (pain that makes you pass out). In contrast to recent trips, there were no problems with our commute to MSKCC via train from Pennsylvania. Specifically, researchers estimate that for every 1 week of delay in referral, the stage of presentation will progress by 0.045 of ‘a stage’. Memoir book cover photo by Linda Becker. We use cookies to help us understand how our website is being used. The sudden appearance of symptoms corresponding with tapering of the prior steroid dexamethasone also provided an important clue. After being told there was at least an hour wait for alternate transportation, we returned to the train and awaited more information. I received a total dose of about 30 gray (Gy) to each site, which has provided significant pain relief in my affected hip/buttock area. Despite my extended treatment break and disease progression, I remain healthy enough to continue advocating for myself and others. By contrast, the resolution of newer MRI’s (3-T versus the standard 1.5T) are best at detecting small/subtle lesions or nerve injuries—so an MRI scan was scheduled for 6:30 pm Saturday. The good news is that radiation mainly addressed the pain originating from my spine. At this point, I was due for a periodic CT scan of my chest, abdomen, and pelvis at MSKCC. Parents, I beg you again—please vaccinate your children against HPV. Co-Founders of The Cancer Journey Institute, Cancer – no one can do my journey for me. In early October, I met with a neurosurgeon at MSKCC in advance of receiving targeted radiation to two areas of my spine. Radiation can cause inflammation in the short-term, which hampers the interpretation of scan results. Then again, perhaps I jinxed myself by celebrating and posting early! Since my prior post, I completed my first cycle of chemotherapy (paclitaxel) and started my second cycle on January 2, 2019. . This medication was added to my opioid pain treatment arsenal and appears to be helping already. Cancer that spreads to the bone is often characterized as osteolytic (causing the breakdown of bone), osteoblastic (causing increased bone production), or in some cases a mix of both. Since the beginning, Dr. Pfister and Nicole have been terrific about customizing treatments based on the concerns I expressed. . The radiofrequency power delivered to tissue during an MRI examination results in heating of patient tissues, but MRI scanners have power limits that keep the radiofrequency power deposition to levels that are safe for most patients. Her blog, "Life and Breath: Outliving Lung Cancer," takes you through her journey as her cancer spreads, enters a clinical trial, and later acknowledges she is going to die from her disease. A 3.0T MRI provides higher clarity and better detail because the magnetic field is twice as strong as 1.5T. The good news is that with adequate steroid treatment, most patients achieve complete recovery from their symptoms. Menu. My cough disappeared, so I was very confident that the inferior left hilar node decreased in size following SBRT. As my strength, energy, taste, and hair returned, however, I began to appreciate “quality” of life over the “quantity” of life potentially afforded by toxic treatments. Cancer’s rapid advancement over the past few weeks provided an opportunity for me to rethink my image of death. To be meaningful, HPV vaccination rates need to be closer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Healthy People 2020 target of 80 percent coverage. My first dose was infused during yesterday’s appointment without issue (Figure 1). “Let me know if you need anything, or call me if you just want to talk,” seems like a helpful thing to say. In the weeks and months following my initial cancer diagnosis in December 2015, the disease status occupied my every thought. In 2017, nearly 49 percent of adolescents received all the recommended doses to complete the HPV vaccination series according to a new study. Navigating the Cancer Journey When Jane Para was diagnosed with breast cancer, Nurse Navigator Angela Acevedo became her “advocate, guide and support”, from the initial meeting in the doctor’s office to the final chemotherapy treatment. It seemed like a fair trade. Until then, I’m continuing my human papillomavirus (HPV) awareness activities and encouraging vaccination of preteen boys and girls to help prevent six cancers linked to HPV. They want their remaining valuable time to consist of more than a war against cancer. Posts about Cancer Journey written by brookjamesbrook. Recall that one full cycle of this therapy is defined as once-weekly infusions of paclitaxel for three consecutive weeks followed by a one week break typically reserved for imaging and/or rest and recovery. With regard to treatment, I’m continuing on the paclitaxel (Taxol®) schedule of three weeks on, one week off. But most cancer treatments are associated with toxicities, which can range from mild to severe. Welcome everyone to my blog on travelling on my journey of faith following my diagnosis of cancer and through the ordeals of chemotherapy. See Figure 2. Personal. that can become very dangerous projectiles. by Keri Lehmann, Master Cancer Coach; Co-Founder of The Cancer Journey Institute. Fast, safe, and effective—there was a lot to like about SBRT. While the trip was otherwise fun, it was a sad reminder that my days of doing speaking engagements and other patient advocacy activities have come to an end: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41). Additionally, I have recently been prescribed 300mg gabapentin twice daily, as it can help treat neuropathic pain. In retrospect, the month of April was a blur. When I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma my entire life flipped upside down. Cancer Survivorship. My situation is far from unique. Dr. Lee noticed the distension in my abdomen, which had slightly increased in size following my earlier appointment with medical oncology on Tuesday. His blog and recently published book, Red Shirts and Rubber Duckies, Surviving Cancer with a Smile, offers cancer patients, caregivers, support groups, relatives and friends insight and practical guidance seasoned with Charles’ special brand of gentle humor. This treatment is designed to deliver extremely precise, very intense doses of radiation to cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue. I nap during a good portion of the day and am losing weight from a lack of appetite. Debuting for the first time this year, patient advocates, industry leaders, and BIO experts discuss emerging trends live from the convention floor in Philadelphia. Click image to enlarge. We arrived at our appointment an hour late, but MSKCC was very accommodating. Nonetheless, an X-ray of my chest was taken to rule out a possible rib fracture that could have been caused by any one of my severe coughing attacks associated with the radiation pneumonitis. The CT scan results were a mixed bag. Accordingly, I was sent to MSKCC’s urgent care facility. Continue reading →, We’re one month into the Certified Cancer Journey Coach Training, and I’m loving it! With a budding interest in photography, I attempted to capture the 9-11 Memorial at sunset in July 2012. The grounds include all of the victims’ names etched in glass railings and twin lighted fountains reminiscent of the landmark Twin Towers that were destroyed in the attacks. How would I do it without him? I spent 2019 in treatment for metaplastic carcinoma of the breast. The next morning, with air travel still grounded, I decided to get in my rental car and drive more than 13 hours straight home to be with my family.” — Michael D. Becker, A Walk with Purpose. The Journey is not quite over yet and I will continue to share what I find to be useful information. Unfortunately, there was no change in the size of my lymph node and subsequent testing confirmed the diagnosis of advanced oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC). In the majority of patients, radiation therapy can provide substantial pain relief. Figure 2: Michael Becker’s radiation tattoos shown in small, solid red circles. My last radiation treatment was over a year ago, and I’m noticing it’s hard to pull the years apart – both had an unreal quality, both years demanded I stay home more than I would in my “normal” life, both years I felt more dependent on my husband. The people you thought you could count on but were wrong and the people you least expected to be there but rose to the occasion. Unfortunately, that was the only good news contained in the CT scan results. In addition to my weekly chemotherapy infusion, I had an appointment with Amitabh Gulati, M.D., a board-certified anesthesiologist and chronic pain specialist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) this past Tuesday. Black Lives Matter – feeling the oppression. However, most patients develop late pulmonary toxicity characterized by localized pulmonary fibrosis (scarring) in the region receiving the high-dose. Larry Lorenzoni it turned out ) through Weekly blog Posts are in reverse chronological order and go the... Felt when I got up, and we arrived back in cancer journey blog 2018 Facebook. Determine from a tornado warning, what ’ s disease and treatment milestones,... The inside is a blog post for my soul disease to patient death no! 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